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Opening up on Open Angle Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases caused by increased intraocular pressure or pressure inside the eyes. The increased pressure damages your optic nerves and retina. Normally, your retina receives light rays through the front part of your eye and it then transmits the light through your optic nerve to your brain which then transforms the light into images. When you suffer from glaucoma, this process is affected and you can have severe vision loss or even blindness if it is not diagnosed and addressed early.

This eye condition may either be open angle or the acute narrow angle type. Here are some useful information about open angle glaucoma:

•    This kind may also be referred to as chronic glaucoma.

•    This is the most common type of this disease which affects around 70% to 80% of persons suffering from this condition.

•    It may be possible that you will not exhibit symptoms at the onset and you will not feel any pain. Thus, it can go unnoticed and untreated for years. You need to have regular eye check-ups in order to detect this problem before it worsens.

•    Chronic glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in American adults. It is the second most common cause in Australia.

•    This commonly occurs in persons who are over 50 years old. The risk increases as you age.

•    African-Americans have higher risk of developing this condition compared to Caucasians.

•    If you have diabetes, cardiovascular problems or a high level of myopia or nearsightedness, you are also at risk of developing this condition.

•    This condition is hereditary. If anyone in your family has this, your risk is higher by up to six times compared to others.

•    This condition has a sub-type called low-tension glaucoma. This occurs when there is damage in the optic nerve, even if there is normal eye pressure. This results in loss of your peripheral vision. A visual field test may be conducted to test your peripheral vision and the back of your eye may be examined at the optic nerve head with an ophthalmoscope to detect if you are suffering from this condition.

•    This condition is caused by a blockage of the aqueous outflow even if the open space or chamber angle in front of your eye is normal. This occurs gradually because as we age, the drainage system in our eyes can either have an excessive production of aqueous fluid or it can be clogged. This will then result in an abnormal increase of pressure inside the eye.

•    This type of glaucoma cannot be cured but you can slow down its progression and prevent it from worsening by lowering your intraocular pressure. Here are some treatments that may be used to address this condition:

•    Eye drops can be used to regulate the drainage system of the eye or to reduce the production of aqueous fluid.

•    Oral medication may also be prescribed for this condition.

•    You may undergo an argon laser trabeculoplasty or the laser treatment of the trabecular meshwork which is a structure inside the eye responsible for filtering aqueous fluid and controlling its flow to the drainage system.

•    You may also undergo trabeculectomy, which is a surgical procedure that is done to remove part of the trabecular meshwork to lower the pressure inside your eyes.

•    The key to glaucoma management is early diagnosis and accurate treatment. The key to both of theses is regular eye examination.  After the age of 40 have your eyes checked every two years for glaucoma.  If you have been classified as a glaucoma suspect then you should be examined at least every year.

About the Author

Dr Jim Kokkinakis (Optometrist) graduated in 1983 from the Optometry School University of NSW. He is currently a Senior Lecturer there and regular speaker to both Optometrists and Ophthalmologists in Australia and Internationally. He has a specialist clinical practice in the Sydney CBD with interests in Eye Strain, Computer Vision problems, Treatment of Eye Diseases and complex Contact lens Fittings.

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